Celebrating Halloween Around the World

Not everyone celebrates Halloween with outrageous costumes, scary parties, and the shouts of ‘Trick and Treat’ echoing throughout the darken streets of the neighborhood.  Here’s what happens in some other parts of the world….

Halloween photoDespite the fact that the original traditions of Halloween began in part of the world that we know today as Ireland, now the Irish mark the holiday with many of the modern American Halloween traditions.  However, one thing that never caught on worldwide is the Irish tradition of ‘barmbrack’ (probably because it is not the kind of ‘treat’ that appeals to the American palate!).  This is like a stale fruitcake but it has muslin-wrapped surprizes mixed inside.  These treats are believed to be able to predict the future of those who find one while eating.  For example, if you crunch down on one of these little treasures and it is a ring, it means romance is in the air.  A coin means wealth is on its way…. But tough luck if you find a thimble as it means you’re doomed to never marry.

In Austria, you are expected to leave bread and water outside on your porch and keep the lights on after you go to bed. This is to welcome the dead souls back to Earth for the one time a year when they return to visit the mortal world.  Yes, sort of like leaving milk and cookies for Santa, but I guess dead souls don’t share his sweet tooth!

The English moved the old English Halloween festivities from 31 October to 5 November when they celebrate Guy Fawkes Day.  It was at midnight on 4 November, 1605, that Guy Fawkes was found stacking gun powder below the House of Lords that would have blown up the following day during parliament and kill King James I.  The following day (5 November) was spent torturing Fawkes in the worst ways one can imagine, including the rack!  After living in the UK for more than 20 years, I never figured out why one would celebrate such an occasion, however this holiday IS a big one!  Huge bonfires are lit and people throw stones, nuts, etc. into the fire to frighten away ghosts.   If you toss a pebble into the fire and it disappears by the morning, fable has it that you are doomed to die in the next year. If two lovers throw nuts into the fire and they explode, then the couple will suffer from a troubled marriage…..only the English would do something like this simply to get bad news.Halloween b&k

In the Latin world, Halloween is a three day long celebration that starts on October 31. The celebration is known as El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It has been celebrated since prehistoric Mexico to mark the memory of the dead. Villages organize parades that feature dancers dressed as skeletons and a living person inside a coffin is carried by ushers, just imagine?!

Farther away from home, Halloween in Hong Kong is known as ‘Yue Lan’ (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts).  They believe that spirits roam the world for the 24 hours of October 31st, so they burn pictures of fruit and money thinking that the ashes of the images will reach them and bring comfort to the ghosts.  I gather these are not the ghosts that enjoy eating bread and water in Austria.

While Halloween is not very popular in South Africa, it is slowly gaining momentum  – similar to how most things happen in South Africa…. slowly slowly.   But costume parties, known a ‘fancy dress’ parties, are springing up more and more.

So, wherever you are in the world for Halloween, enjoy your day and night – living or dead!

Becky & Kris


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